The attainment of the title "Petrostate" for Guyana has driven the population into a frenzy about how to handle this new thing.
Among the many topical discussions is Local Content. The choice of the phrase does not resonate with me as it denotes some inanimate thing. People are not things, but this is a conversation for another time.
The word "local" on the other hand excites me as I associate this with domestic growth and well being for the economy and the citizens by extension. This is assuming that local goods and services are consumed in increasingly greater proportion to those that are imported.
On a personal level, I always consume the local food and beer whenever I travel to a foreign land. Not only do I desire an authentic experience of the local cuisine, but I want to support their local industries in my own small way. I do the same at home, but there are some exceptions.
But getting back to the topic at hand, the talk of "Local Content" in Guyana refers in large part to the human capital. I applaud the government and civic institutions for giving this topic the early attention that it deserves.
Addressing the human capital issue as it pertains to the oil and gas industry is crucial to the economic well-being of Guyanese and the country at large.
Guyana may be late to the petrostate club, but it has the advantage of learning from all the states that have passed the infancy stage of their development.
Developing the critical skills and experience needed run the industry will obviously take time, and the process must begin now and carefully managed.
In the meanwhile, Guyanese must be careful not to alienate the expatriate workforce that leave the comfort of their homes to take up employment in Guyana. The skills and experience that they bring to the country are invaluable and their contribution must be acknowledged. It is important that the local workforce learn as much as they could from these seasoned expats.
I have not seen any evidence of anti-foreigner behavior and I sincerely hope that this remains so. We are living in an interconnected world and no nation can prosper and grow without the help of foreign labour. I am especially sensitive to this issue since I have firsthand experience of being an expat worker with a constant reminder of that status.
No-one on this earth chose the colour of their skin or where they were born, so these things should never be used against them.
Industries need the best talent that they can find in order to run a safe, competitive and profitable business. That said, the talent should be sourced from anywhere that it can be found.
Would you go to a Mexican restaurant to buy Chinese food? I think that you get the point.
The 10,000 hours rule, which was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers," says that it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills. This means that as a young industry, we still have a far way to go before the mastery that is required at the local level is reached.
I came from the aviation industry where it is well known how the 10,000 hours rule is used. Most major airlines only hire or promote pilots to Captains after they would have attained 10,000 flight hours. This is not to say that pilots with less hours cannot Captain an aircraft, but the airline has a greater level of assurance when that threshold is met.
While I have not read the Local Content Policy, the one thing that I will harp upon is the transfer of skills and knowledge.
A razor is an important tool that men use to shave and keep themselves well groomed. This same tool would however be dangerous in the hands of a boy. He can be injured simply because he is not sufficiently skilled and matured to use it.
Similarly, using local labor that is not yet competent to handle some tasks can prove to be disastrous.
As developing countries at the time, South Korea and Singapore are good examples of how they used foreign capital and expertise to develop industries within their countries.
The great United States of America has been able to maintain its dominance in the world because its industries have recruited the best talent available from every corner of the globe.
We should not forget the pitfalls of Uganda, for example, which expelled Asian expats en masse in the 1972 and plunged the country in economic chaos. Ugandans did not possess the skills and experience to run the businesses that were left behind.
Nations often pride itself with achievements gained from the indigenous population, but there is no shame is using and acknowledging foreign input. Just create opportunities for training and skill transfer and let competitive market forces take its natural course.